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Opinion

The great football heist

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Roar Guru
22nd April, 2021
7

The king is dead. Long live the king.

The attempted takeover of European football lasted as long as it takes to take out the trash. And that’s the strategy that was used on Sunday night UK time to announce that the big six Premier League clubs had signed to the breakaway Super League.

The six English clubs involved were Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea. All of those clubs bar City and Chelsea are American owned. That is telling as the model they want to bring in to replace the UEFA-run Champions League is based on the lines of the top US sports like the NFL, NBA and MLB where there is no promotion and relegation, meaning that they have guaranteed income each season.

This was nothing but a direct attack on UEFA and the clubs who were not invited to join this elite competition. What they didn’t expect was the groundswell of condemnation by the government and the fans as well as the governing bodies. The rebels were undone by the fan-driven campaign to bring the proposed competition down. While this has been spun as a way to make football a more attractive commodity for all fans, the reality was that it was born out of nothing but the lust for more riches and the greed by the owners of the clubs.

The treachery that has been displayed is nothing short of breathtaking. It cannot be argued that the greedy six went behind the backs of the other 14 clubs in the Premier League to broker an arrangement for themselves where they would reap the benefits of breaking the European competition model while they were left with what was left. Many bridges will have to be mended but nothing short of a cleanout of the management and ownership of these clubs will restore the lost trust.

A look at the owners and directors test will need to be used to determine if they are fit and proper to continue in their roles. Social and fan-lead media as well as the mainstream outlets were all working to stop it before it started.

Manchester City and Chelsea were the first to pull out. They were spooked. It is said that they were the last to sign up and it’s ironic that they are the first to break ranks. Their respective managers passionately spoke out about the proposal, saying that their clubs had not consulted them or the players. Not long after, the other four English clubs followed suit.

Kai Havertz of Chelsea

Kai Havertz of Chelsea (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

It has not gone unnoticed that it took most of the day for any club owner to speak and issue an apology to the fans. The generic statements on the club websites were as cold as ice with the exception of Arsenal, who did make a real apology. The spin has started as to why the clubs signed up as they didn’t want to be the one that missed out but that rings hollow for all football fans.

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Liverpool’s John Henry must be given credit as he was the one owner who faced the camera and delivered a heartfelt apology and asked for the fans to forgive them. He took full responsibility. Well done for that.

This episode reminds us of the Kerry Packer empire taking on the Australian Cricket Board for the TV rights that had been held at the time by the ABC. In the end, Packer won. Years later he joined with the Australian rugby league in a fight against Rupert Murdoch, who formed a rebel Super League for his new pay-TV network Foxtel.

The European Super League was short-lived but we won’t know the repercussions of the six clubs’ actions. Many are calling for sanctions by UEFA and the Premier League, which would seem fair to most fans.

If this had gone ahead and the six were booted out of the Premier League to the Championship, it would have been interesting to see who the new big six would have been if they were not allowed back. I can only name five as there is not a clear cut number six.

The clubs I would nominate based on fan engagement, financials, stadium and history would be Aston Villa, Leeds, Everton, West Ham and Newcastle. Leicester could be in there along with Derby or Nottingham Forest if not for the fact they are so far down the Championship ladder, therefore it’s a moot point.

I have not based my assessment on results as it is worth noting that the big six concept was not around when the Premier League started in 1992, as many of the clubs were mid-table.